Prevent, Promote, and Protect your Health with the Lake County General Health District
(440) 350-2543
5966 Heisley Rd
Mentor, Ohio 44060
June 26, 2018


June 26, 2018

PRESS RELEASE                                                                   CONTACT:  Cathy Hewitt (440) 350-2442

June 21, 2018                                                                     LAKE COUNTY GENERAL HEALTH DISTRICT


On May 29, 2018, Wickliffe City Council passed an ordinance to adopt Tobacco 21, a national campaign that prohibits the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21, and some individuals have expressed concerns over this new legislation. While adoption of Tobacco 21 by a political subdivision is voluntary, Lake County General Health District would like to provide information regarding the benefits of Tobacco 21 adoption.

Tobacco 21 is a national campaign aimed at raising the minimum legal sale age (MLA) for tobacco and nicotine sales in the United States to 21[1]. Tobacco use is the foremost preventable cause of premature death in the United States[2], is responsible for approximately 480,000 deaths a year[3], and has contributed to 208 million premature deaths in the United States since the Surgeon General’s 1964 smoking report2. Moreover, smoking is linked to $300 billion in national health care and lost productivity costs per year3. As such, Tobacco 21 represents an opportunity for public health law to mitigate an important national health risk.

Approximately 95% of adult smokers begin smoking before age 21, and between the ages of 18 and 21, many smokers move from casual smoking to regular daily use4. The developing brains of those 21 and under are particularly susceptible to the addictive properties of nicotine5, and those who start smoking by the age of 18 are almost twice as likely to become lifetime smokers, as opposed to those who start after the age of 216.

Each day, more than 3,200 youth under the age of 18 smoke their first cigarette, and nine out of 10 smokers start before the age of 187. The 2014 Lake County Youth Health Status Assessment reported that 10% of youth in grades six through 12 were smokers, increasing to 19% of those who were over the age of 178. Of the current youth smokers in Lake County, 22% smoke cigarettes on a daily basis8. The average age of initiation in Lake County is 13 years of age, and 85% of youth who identified as current smokers were also current drinkers8. The rise in youth E-cigarette use is also concerning, given the availability of products like Juul, an E-cigarette modeled to look like a USB flash drive.

Ninety percent of all adults who purchase tobacco products for minors are between the ages of 18 and 209, and increasing the minimum tobacco sale age to 21 could eliminate minors’ ability to buy from fellow students. This, therefore, addresses a major deficiency as to why existing age restrictions have not successfully eliminated smoking among children.

Across the Unites States, more than 310 cities and counties have adopted Tobacco 211; Ohio cities include Akron (04/16/18), Dublin (12/04/17), Powell (06/20/17), Euclid (12/21/16), Columbus (12/12/16), Cleveland (12/07/15), New Albany (11/17/15), Grandview Heights (09/21/15), Bexley (06/23/15), and Upper Arlington (06/08/15)10.

In July of 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released study findings that 75% of adults were in favor of raising the tobacco sale to 21; 70% percent of the adults participating in the study were current smokers, and 65% were aged 18 to 2411.

The 2017-2018 Community Tobacco-Free Survey asked 989 residents from Lake, Geauga, and Ashtabula County residents if the minimum age of purchase and possession of tobacco products should be raised to 21, and results indicated that 55% strongly agreed, and 18% agreed. “When this data was broken down by tobacco use, 77% of non-tobacco users, 71% of former tobacco users, and 51% of present tobacco users supported Tobacco 21 legislation,” said Cathy Hewitt of the Lake County General Health District.

“Tobacco 21 legislation protects our youth from lifelong nicotine addiction”, stated Hewitt.

“The Lake County General Health District offers assistance to all Ashtabula, Geauga, and Lake County cities who would like to adopt a Tobacco 21 ordinance ( to make tobacco products illegal for purchase to individuals under the age of 21,” said Hewitt. For more information on tobacco and tobacco-free polices, contact Cathy Hewitt at (440) 350-2442.

[1] Tobacco 21. (n.d.). Retrieved on June 21, 2018, from

[2] Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. (2012). Current Cigarette Smoking Among Adults, United States, 2011, 61(44) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly. Retrieved on June 21, 2018, from

[3] US Department of Health and Human Services. (2014). The health consequences of smoking—50 years of progress: a report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 17.

4 Abuse, S. (2006). Results from the 2005 national survey on drug use and health: national findings. http://www. oas. samhsa. gov/nsduh/2k5nsduh/2k5Results. pdf.

5 Morales, A. M., Ghahremani, D., Kohno, M., Hellemann, G. S., & London, E. D. (2014). Cigarette exposure, dependence, and craving are related to insula thickness in young adult smokers. Neuropsychopharmacology, 39(8), 1816.

6 Burrows, D. S. (1982). Estimated change in industry trend following federal excise tax increase.

7 Be Tobacco Free. (n.d.). Retrieved on June 21, 2018 from


Marianne Rusnak
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